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Saint Valentine's Day

Saint Albans
Published by in Sermon ·
Tags: Lent1StValentineAHC
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1st\nSunday in Lent 2016
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Saint Valentine’s\nDay
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\nPs\n91:1-2,9-16 \n
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\nDeut\n26:1-11 \n
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\nRom\n10:8b-13 \n
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Luke\n4:1-13 \n
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May the words spoken\nbe to the greater glory of God and the advance of the Gospel, in the\nName of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.
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Everything in our\nchurch calendar is so much earlier this year.  Here we are on the\nFirst Sunday in Lent, which happens also to be Valentine’s Day…only\n14 days into February.  Christmas seems only to have been a few weeks\nago…and it was!
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Well, be that as it\nmay, it is the First Sunday in Lent and it is Valentine’s Day.  So\nlet’s start with a brief synopsis of who Saint Valentine was and\nwhy actually, he remains important in our church calendar, above and\nbeyond the obvious commercial presence this day has in the secular\nyear.  As it happens, Saint Valentine and what he is known for, not\nsimply Valentine’s Day, does in fact, relate closely to the\nimperatives we have for our penitential reflection during the Season\nof Lent…and indeed, our daily lives as Christian people.
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Saint Valentine’s\nfull title in the Martyrology of the Roman Catholic Communion is\nSaint Valentine of Rome.  He was a third century saint and\nsince the Middle Ages has been commemorated on 14th\nFebruary.  Although very little is actually known about him,\nValentine is regarded as personifying courtly love.  Courtly\nlove, which we know well from tales of knights in shining armour\nrushing off to do all kinds of heroic deeds to please their ladies,\nis about chivalry and nobility.   Moreover, though, in essence\ncourtly love was considered to be an honourable experience of\nrelationship developed in the context of erotic desire blended with\nspiritual attainment.
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Phew...it’s\ndifficult to even say all that without getting a bit breathless! \n
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What is not\nmentioned in that list of courtly love characteristics, is the\nintrinsic element of commitment to one another, which really\nis the foundation of any robust relationship.  Adoration, desire,\nmutual trust, respect, care, fidelity, communication…these are all\nnecessary ingredients of what might be wrapped up in the word love\n(not to mention passion, chivalry and honour), but commitment\nis fundamental to a living love…the commitment to feel and\ndo all those other things we regard as ‘being in love’ and in ‘a\nloving relationship’.  When the commitment ceases, so often does\nreal love in the relationship.
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It is here in the\nmeaning of the word commitment that we find the link between\nValentine’s Day and Lent…or at least the persona of Saint\nValentine of Rome and our living faith…for in a living\nrelationship, giving up and taking on tasks, attitudes, shared\nburdens and mutual enjoyment, are things of commitment.
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In this Lenten\nSeason when we give up some things and possibly take on some new\nones, we do so as a mark of our commitment to the way of Christ.   In\nour commitment, we build and strengthen the link between ourselves\nand God through Christ.  If not attributed with this kind of\ncommitment, Valentine’s courtly love certainly implies it.
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For our faith to be\na living faith, it cannot exist without love, incorporating\nall the elements of love that come from real commitment.
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God commits to us\nunconditionally in forgiveness, reconciliation and above all his\nacceptance of us…just as we are.  His is real ‘love’. \nOur baptismal commission is to reciprocate that love, following the\nTwo Great Commandments of Christ…to love the Lord our God and to\nlove one another…that in itself, returns to God the kind of love\nthat reflects true commitment to our relationship with Him. \n
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In our humanity,\nperhaps the most commonly held sense of commitment is evident in the\nintimacy of two people in a loving relationship.   The law of our\ncountry enables men and women to marry and now also, for same sex\ncouples to marry.  It’s a legal thing but moreover, it’s society\nrecognising the authenticity of love and commitment by two people who\nwish to share their lives together fulsomely and wholesomely.  It is\nin our humanity, showing respect, one to another, across the broad\nspectrum of our society, where in law, no one is excluded from equal\nrecognition.  \n
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We know that the\nchurch hasn’t reached this point of discernment yet, which is an\nissue that continues to divide our Communion and exclude some of us\nfrom the sacrament of marriage.   \n
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You will know that\nthere is much I could say and have said previously about that but\nsuffice to say this morning, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ that\ninspires my life and draws me to God, is one of complete equality,\njustice and respect for all by one another, underlined by the\nteaching of Jesus that God’s love and blessing is for everyone.  No\none is excluded.
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To exclude anyone of\nsincere faith commitment from any sacrament, be it Holy Communion,\nforgiveness and reconciliation, baptism or marriage, is in my view\nantipathetic to the message and intent of the Gospel. \n
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At the heart of the\nsacraments is God’s love and commitment to us that His Grace Gifts\nare freely given.  In reciprocating that love, we express our\ncommitment to the Way of Christ in all things and therefore, we\nenable the sacraments to be alive in us.  Sincerity of commitment\nthen, regardless of our individual life characteristics, is the key\nto accessing the sacraments in word and action.
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So let’s consider\nanother form of commitment.   Today, Father Wayne has just made\npromises before God and the Church that he will live in a personal\nfaith perspective of prayer and action according to The rule of\nLife first set down by Saint Benedict some 1500 or so years ago.
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The Rule has\nmodified somewhat over time but intrinsically, it is as Benedict\nwrote it for a community of faith who wished to commit themselves to\na life of prayer and action in the Way of Christ.  This commitment\nincorporated some sacrifices and a dedication to a common life that\nincluded a cycle of daily prayer, study and work.  Just as with a\ntwo-person loving relationship, commitment to others in the\ncomplexity of our human selves, means compromise, self-sacrifice and\ndevotion to an ideal.  This is what Saint Benedict formalised for his\nmonks.
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The early\ncommunities who lived and now live together have taken many forms and\nused different Rules over time, especially as they have been formed\nand influenced by other Saints such as Francis, Vincent, Ignatius and\nof course, Our Lady in one or other of her dedications to for\ninstance, acts of Mercy and specific miraculous events.   \n
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The so-called ‘new\nmonasticism’ is gaining momentum around the world as many of those\nin Third Order relationships with First Order religious communities,\nor perhaps other individual and group expressions of Oblation to a\nRule of Faith and Life for Religious Orders, come themselves to be\nregarded as communities of faith, committed to that expression of\nbeing in Christ.
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This is so for those\nBenedictine Oblates who become Associates of the Order of the Holy\nCross, such as Fr Wayne this morning, with Ken, Andy and myself in\nthis place.  Others here in the Society of Saint Francis, or the\nConfraternity of the Blesséd Sacrament or other self-identified\ngroup, re-commit daily to their professed intent to follow Christ in\nthe way their Rule of Faith and Life enables them.    \n
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Commitment!  \nThis is as it is for all Christians.   Personal, individual\nCommitment to Christ as it is marked out by Baptism and lived\nout in our personal prayer and daily living, including our regular\nparticipation in the sacraments of the church.  \n
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Jesus was challenged\nby commitment.  He had to struggle with figuring out God’s will for\nhim and his ministry and as the Gospel passage today tells us, Jesus\nspent forty days Jesus wandering in the desert while being tempted by\nSatan to deny his Father and to fall into sin.  What kept him firm in\nhis faith was his commitment…his commitment to being in an active\nrelationship with his Father, seeking the truth and the right way\nforward.  Here we see a part of the real commitment of Jesus, which\nleads eventually to his death fully embracing that commitment.
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Christ and our life\nin him is about commitment…it’s all about commitment.
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Why do we come to\nchurch every Sunday?  Fellowship, morning tea and the words of Jesus\nthat when two or three are gathered together he will be with us…these\nare in themselves all good reasons to go to church…but\nreally, we choose to come to church out of a commitment to worship\nGod and give thanks for the reality that we are all loved by Him and\nto give back through our commitment to Him in Christ, our\nacknowledgment of that love.
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There are at times\ngood reasons why we don’t make it to church here or elsewhere and I\ncertainly don’t judge anyone in that regard but for our sense…our\nwish I assume…for our commitment to be authentic, especially\nin our faith tradition, gathering for Eucharist is above all other\nthings we might like or want to do on a Sunday morning, especially at\ntimes of particular commitment focus such as Easter Day and Christmas\nDay.
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In our worship\ntradition here there are numerous times when we want to be in church\ntogether as a faith community.  We want to participate together in\nthe sacraments that nourish us and feed our faith…and we do that\nbecause as followers of Christ, we are committed to and needy of\nthose sacraments to keep us whole in body, mind and spirit. \n
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We do not live\nby bread alone”, says Jesus to Satan in St Luke’s Gospel.  He\nturns away from the riches of this world promised him if he denies\nhis Heavenly Father, stating that to be all that he is meant to be,\nthe Holy Spirit must infuse, guide and strengthen him for something\ngreater than worldly wealth…his taoanga, his precious\nrichness, that he teaches us how to embrace, is the eternal love,\ncare and everlasting relationship that is found through the mutuality\nof commitment between God and each one of us.  \n
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Commitment is that\nat the core of our faith, as it is at the core of any loving\nrelationship.  That sense of commitment is central to our penitential\nreflection activity of Lent, be is through prayer, study or\nfasting…or whatever we choose as something focused to mark out this\nseason, just as we were marked by the Sign of the Cross on Ash\nWednesday when we take into our hearts the words, “From dust you\ncame and from dust you will return.”  These are salutary words\nthat acknowledge our human existence but within the whole of our\nbeing, they incorporate our spiritual selves.  In this act, we are\ncommitting ourselves to the hope and trust in the promises of Christ.
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\nJust so, commitment is central to the kind of love characterised by\nSaint Valentine and this is what brings what has become a commercial\nartefact into focus for our expression of faith, where an honourable\nlove, a profoundly felt committed love of one another, can be seen\nalso by us, from and for God who through the life, death and\nresurrection of Jesus Christ, gave us the ultimate expression and\ngift of love…given for each one of us equally and is fully\ncommitted…committed for all time.
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In the Name of the\nfather, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.
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